An injured friend is the bitterest of foes …
Opinion on French Treaties, April 28, 1793
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Resolute leaders keep their word and honor old friends.
Treasury Secretary Hamilton expressed his opinion to President Washington that the U.S. was not bound by treaties it had made with France. He reasoned that France had changed its form of government since the treaties were made, from monarchy to republic and might change it again. Our treaties bound us to monarchial France but not to a France governed in another style.
Secretary of State Jefferson wholeheartedly disagreed, and he laid out his reasoning in this Opinion. Buried in the middle of this lengthy and complicated document are these eight simple words, “An injured friend is the bitterest of foes …”
America’s relationship with France was just one of the many issues Hamilton and Jefferson sparred over. Hamilton always favored the British and their form of government, while Jefferson remembered France’s essential contribution of money and men in America’s war for independence. He spent five years as the new nation’s Ambassador to France. He loved the nation, its people and culture (its leadership not so much) and their struggle toward freedom.
Jefferson maintained it was neither legal nor moral for America to renege on its treaties. Beyond that, it was a shabby way to treat an old friend. Hamilton suggested keeping the treaties might bring America to war. Jefferson suggested that not keeping them could do the same thing, because we had turned a good friend into the worst possible kind of foe.
“The entire address was performed with poise, dignity and exceptional ingenuity.”
Executive Director, American Diabetes Association, Missouri Affiliate, Inc.
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